It's easy to lose concentration while wrapped in Dimitri's tight embrace. The goofy grin that's plastered on my face fades as my eyes drift to Jill. A lump grows in my throat as I recall what Victor said and I have a feeling Abe agrees. The reality of what I did to Jill and her future finally hits me. I slightly shake.
"Are you okay?" Dimitri whispers in my ear. Meeting his gaze I muster a half-ass smile. The look he gives me says 'we'll talk later'. Upon conclusion of the ceremony, Dimitri squeezed my hand and makes his way over to Christian. Watching his retreat across the room, I find Jill, standing awkwardly in the front. She looks so lost and alone. I wonder if she feels abandoned.
As Lissa approaches, I promptly step in line at her side taking my place in her guard formation as she exits. Sparing one last look at Jill, I see Adrian talking to her. Good, he will take her under his wing. Our eyes briefly meet; I see they're puffy and rimmed red. Damn. Is that from me or the booze? I have a feeling from me. My heart sinks and my chest tightens. Breathe Rose. Just Breath.
"Are you okay?" Lissa asks. I nod.
"You're doing too much too soon. When we get back you'll go straight to your room for rest."
"Lissa..." I protest.
"Queen's orders." She cuts me off with a surprisingly authoritative tone. Turning on her heels to walk, it signals the end of this discussion.
Back in my room I begin to undress and notice my stitches bled through the bandages. After replacing them I lay down on my bed, curling up in a ball and I start to cry.
Dimitri comes to me later in the evening. At some point I must have found sleep, but my puffy red eyes don't lie.
"Roza," he scoops me up cradling me in his strong arms. Brushing my hair out of the way, he kisses my forehead. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know. Nothing. Everything." Tears start running down my face again.
"Everything I've done, all the lives I've ruined..." I look up into his eyes, "at the time I did what I needed to do to get through it. I felt it then, but I always pushed down the emotions, telling myself I'd deal with the backlash later. I think it's later." I'm on the verge of a hysterical fit.
Dimitri doesn't say anything. He just holds me, rocking me back and forth. Gently stroking my back, giving me all the love and compassion I need to get through this. Finally he speaks.
"Roza, you did what you needed to do, what was expected of you. Just look what happened because of you and what you believed! You proved Stroigi can be healed. You saved me. You found a member of Lissa's family and not only gave her voting rights, but also made her Queen. The things you can accomplish when you set your mind to it is limitless."
"But at what cost?" This caught him off guard. "I ruined Eddie's perfect record. I cost him a mark..."
"Eddie knew the repercussions to his actions when he joined you on your mission." Eyeing me suspiciously, "By the way, exactly what were you doing in Las Vegas? And do I want to know why Victor was with you? And how he escaped?"
"It's best if you don't." I whisper into his chest. I know he's smiling.
"And Jill. What will come of her? She won't be able to live with her parents again. She won't even be able to return to the Academy, or stay at court." More tears line my face.
"Jill is in a very fragile position, being the only living Dragomir. She's a necessity for Lissa to remain Queen."
"I know. It still doesn't make it fair. We didn't exactly explain all this to her when we brought her here. Hell, we didn't even ASK her to do this. We just expected her to and if she wouldn't come willingly..."
"But she did come willingly."
"Yes. She may have agreed to come to court and give Lissa voting rights. She didn't know Lissa would be Queen, or how extreme her life would change. How cold and uncaring Lissa would be toward her."
"She'll be fine. Adrian's taken her under his wing. He'll watch out for her." His words are innocent, but as I hear his name tears well up again. Adrian.
"I'm such a bitch. I don't know why you love me." Looking into his eyes I ask, "Why do you love me?"
"Roza, how could I not love you? Everything about you screams to me. You're so strong and powerful. You put everyone else's needs before your own. Especially Lissa's...and mine."
"But I don't worry about who I plow through, or what happens to them in the aftermath. Just ask Victor and Mason."
"You can't punish yourself for something that isn't your fault. What happened to them was out of your control."
"Then let's ask Christian how he's dealing with the news about Tasha. I should have tried to warn him, to prepare him for the truth."
"Rose. How would you have done that?"
"Or, I could have let them take me into custody and given them the information then, in private as opposed to public."
"It's easy to think of what we could have done or should have done in retrospect. But in the heat of the moment, when our adrenaline is pumping it's hard to think things through completely. Besides, you don't know if they would have believed you or been able to prove anything. Her confession was your savior. Without it all we had was based on the alchemists."
"OH and Sydney. What have I done to her future? I owe her so much for all she's done for me. Both here and in Russia. Adrian was right, I'm not worthy...my friends do so much for me and all I do is ruin their lives!"
"We'll get through this, I'm here for you." Dimitri's voice cuts through the silence. "Think of your happy place."
"My what?" I stifle a small giggle.
"A moment in time when everything was perfect. You had no worries except about what was happening in that exact moment. And in that moment you were truly happy."
"That's easy." I say, turning to look into his eyes. "Care to guess? It involves you."
"Does it involve a cabin?" He raises his eyebrows.
"No. That's a good one, but we weren't exactly worry-less." He nods.
"Flipping through the travel book at the library in West Virginia." I smile.
"Yes. That was a perfect moment." He smiles. "Now keep that moment close to your heart, whenever you feel overwhelmed think about it until you calm down."
"It's you who calms me down." I snuggle under his chin.
"I'll always be here for you, Roza." Dimitri says. I know I should be worried about his fragile mental state too, but right now I'm wallowing in self pity.
"When do you leave?" Earlier Dimitri told me Christian accepted a teaching position at St. Vladimir's Academy, to teach young Moroi how to fight. Of course Dimitri will accompany him as his guardian.
"End of the week." His voice is low and he kisses my forehead. Tears well up again and run down my face. I cry myself to sleep.
I wake in the morning, still cradled in his arms. The look in his eyes tells me he didn't sleep. I smile up at him and his facial features relax. Whatever he was previously thinking about vanished. Flashing me the sexiest smile he leans in for my lips. A mind blowing kiss that leads to much more than kissing.
"You better watch out, a girl can get use to this in the morning." I tease as I lay cuddled against his naked body. I feel his lips pull up into a smile against my neck.
"As can I." He sighs as he gently trails kisses down my neck.